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God's Calling or Family: Do We Have to Choose?

We are often creatures of overreaction. One of the recent things I’ve been seeing in working with pastors is an almost paranoia about bringing the life and mission of the church into the life and mission of their family. My observation is that clearly a generation or two of ministry leaders are ensuring not to do what they’ve seen some of their forebears do: Sacrifice their family on the altar of mission (ministry). And they should be commended for this.


What often happens is an unhelpful compartmentalization rather than integration of life. We’ve been given one life so we should live one life. So rather than working 60, 70, 80 hour weeks and leaving our families on their own, we’ve pulled the work hours way back (good!), but have put up impenetrable walls between the life of the church’s mission and the life of our families. There is often very little overlap between the two.

But is that what we really want for our families? Don’t we want the mission of Jesus to be their mission? Don’t we want the whole of our family to function in that mission together?

Here’s the problem. For far too long, many of us felt we were pushed into having to make this false dichotomy: Is it family OR mission?

Rightly recognizing we shouldn’t sacrifice our families, we started to put some healthy boundaries in place, but also some unhealthy ones. So we started to compartmentalize. But I believe it’s part of the progression. So for many of us, this is now the question of our time: Is it family AND mission?

But when we learn to integrate our life and live well as a people participating in the mission of God each and every day and as we listen to the mission God is calling our family to, this is the next progression: Is it family ON mission?

Yes there are still smart boundaries we put in place, but it’s integration that opens up our families to a new reality of life in the Kingdom of God.

It’s fascinating to watch the leaders we work with make this progression as their life becomes more and more integrated and their family is part of that calling:

  • Family OR Mission? …to
  • Family AND Mission? …to
  • Family ON Mission.

We have one life, so let’s live one life with our family on mission together.

Where do you think you and your family are functioning right now?

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Mike leads 3DM, the global home for an organic movement of biblical discipleship and missional church. He and his wife, Sally, have three children.